Die Hard: With a Vengeance ★★★★½

A large part of what made the original Die Hard so great was that John McClane was an underdog. It made him easier for the audience to identify with than the usual superhuman action heroes. Vengeance kicks this aspect up a few notches. McClane is washed-up, on suspension, borderline alcoholic, his marriage on the fritz and nursing the motherload of hangovers. He starts the film in pretty much the worse shape he could, which makes his struggle seem that much worse and ups the ante significantly.

The other interesting aspect of this film is that McTiernan doesn’t just remake the original. He understands that the first movie was a one-off. Lightning in a bottle. It was special because McClane was completely out of his element. A sequel to that film risks becoming a joke. Vengeance smartly incorporates the unlikelihood of this happening to McClane again into its plot, rather than throwing it away in a couple of comedic lines (as in Die Hard 2), it instead wraps the plot around this and makes the first movie the very reason it is all happening again.

The one thing that Die Hard with a Vengeance really fumbles is the climax. It doesn’t feel organic. I appreciate and understand what they were aiming for, but it doesn’t work. It ends up seeming tacked on (because it was) and the film has lost all of its steam by the time we arrive in Canada.

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